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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + project FAQ (pinned post)

State "mitigation matrix" reveals quarterly project monitoring, but could use more transparency; details 215 construction workers, two-year contract for school buildout, misleading number of affordable units

Given the tight fit of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, a 22-acre site nudging into an existing community, the margin for error is small. Neighbors regularly express concern about incursions from construction or arena operations, even as state overseers point out that the project is monitored more than most.

That--and the oversight under questions--should be a topic at tonight's bi-monthly Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting, at 6 pm, at 55 Hanson Place. And one issue may be the need to regularly make public a quarterly document that details the project's compliance with environmental commitments.

(The obligations are listed in a 2014 Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, issued by Empire State Development, or ESD, the state authority that oversees and shepherds the project.)

Discussion at the AY CDC: need for transparency

At the 1/17/18 meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), departing board member Jaime Stein, who's echoed residents' calls for more transparency and oversight, thanked AY CDC executive director Tobi Jaiyesimi for providing the quarterly "mitigation matrix" that details

That document is prepared by the ESD's contracted monitor, HDR, and Stein said she wanted to commend "HDR, the developer, the state for a comprehensive document" that stretched 37 pages. (The AY CDC was set up to advise ESD, though it has no veto power.)

Stein also recommended that the state disseminate the document to foster transparency and understanding. "Without this document being publicly available, we’re doing folks a disservice," she said.

The document could ease concerns, for example, that queueing of trucks is not being monitored, she said. "But there are some spots where I think could benefit from community input," she added, citing the issue of rodent control.

She didn't get assent on that policy from Marion Phillips III, the AY CDC president and an executive at Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that AY CDC is set up to advise. Phillips did say that better monitoring has led to fewer community complaints. (That may well be part of it, but there may also be some "complaint fatigue" that has led residents to stop trying.)

I'd add that making it public would also introduce a new layer of oversight, because, for example, there's at least one clear, as noted below, regarding affordable units.

Making the matrix public (and calling for broader look)

That quarterly mitigation matrix has in fact been made public, not by the state body but by the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance, a community group that acquired the document (without specifying how).

The group's Peter Krashes wrote:
While a public document, we believe we are making it available to the general public for the first time. It is our hope that Empire State Development will now start updating and publishing this document on its own website in a timely basis.
The Mitigation Matrix tracks New York State’s “means and methods” for tracking compliance with what is called the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, (MEC). The Memorandum of Environmental Commitments is a list of requirements the State of New York has identified in its environmental analysis for Atlantic Yards / Pacific Park.
Krashes argued that the zone for compliance should be expanded to better encompass the impacts of the project:
Many but not all of the commitments in the MEC apply to a specific geographic area within the project site or immediately outside of it. Most of the commitments were established in 2006 when the project was approved.
Maintenance of the matrix is the job of Empire State Development’s environmental monitor HDR. The scope and relevance of HDR’s work has long been questioned by community members.
Issue: construction workers and parking

The document notes that the developer must provide access to onsite parking for construction workers and that additional spaces must be made available if there are more than 500 construction workers and there's a shortfall of parking spaces at Atlantic Center parking garage.

(Presumably the next quarterly update will note that Forest City New York, the junior part of developer Greenland Forest City Partners, no longer controls Atlantic Center, as its parent has sold the 51% share.)

The document states:
The total number of construction workers on-site during the third quarter of 2017 averaged 215 workers. Construction worker parking was available at the Atlantic Center parking garage. The Developer maintains that there are several hundred parking spaces available in this garage during daytime construction hours.
First, that's not a lot of workers, though it reflects that much of the recent work has been on infrastructure, with only punch list work necessary on the completed towers, and with no new towers yet under way. (Groundbreaking for the giant B4 tower is expected next year.)

Second, given that workers understandably would rather not pay for parking, it's a good bet that a large majority instead seek free parking on neighborhood streets, as near to work as possible--as has been periodically documented by neighbors.

Issue: affordable housing numbers

The document notes that provision of an onsite or offsite day care center accommodating children from low-income households will be triggered only after Certificates of Occupancy are issued for 620 units of affordable housing targeted to households earning up to 80% AMI in Phase II.

"Phase II buildings with affordable units include Buildings 5-8, and Building 14," the document states. "As of the conclusion of the third quarter of 2017, Certificates of Occupancy had been issued for 601 Phase 2 units of affordable housing targeted to households earning up to 80% AMI [Area Median Income]."

That's inaccurate. The only Phase II buildings east of the arena block that are finished are B11, the condo building 550 Vanderbilt, and B14, the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton. That building has 90 units (30% of total) for low-income households (the first two housing "bands"). It has another 15 units for moderate-income households earning up to 100% of AMI, but with rents set at 80% of AMI.

In Phase 1 buildings on the arena block, 461 Dean has 73 low-income units and 38 Sixth has 91 low-income units.

Issue: affordable housing configuration

The document states:
The Project (including Phase I and Phase II) shall generate at least 2,250 units of affordable housing on site for low-, moderate-, and middle-income persons and families. ...The affordable units are anticipated to be built as part of the Mayor’s New Housing Marketplace Plan and are expected to be financed through tax-exempt bonds provided under existing and proposed City of New York (“City”) and State of New York (“State”) housing programs such as the City’s 50-30-20 program. Based on currently available information, the parties anticipate that the affordable housing units will be made available to households with incomes falling within the income bands set forth in the FEIS and FSEIS. However, the income bands may be adjusted to accommodate the requirements of any City, State or federal housing program utilized for the construction of the affordable housing, subject to City approval.
(Emphasis added)

Actually, they've already been adjusted--the highest percentage of Area Median Income (AMI) for low-income units in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS, see page 36) is 50%, whereas in the last two buildings it was 60%, while the highest percentage of AMI for middle-income units in the document was 160%, whereas in the last two buildings it was 165%.

Moreover, the distribution differs from that long promised, with a skew to middle-income units.

Issue: timing of middle school

What's up with the planned middle school, in the base of a planned residential tower just east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets? The document states that according to the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments:
SCA [School Construction Authority] completed the site selection process during the first quarter of 2016. The New York City Department of Education has determined that this is going to be an intermediate school. During the third quarter of 2017, the Developer reported that a contract had been signed with the SCA specifying that the construction of the intermediate school must be completed within two (2) years of construction start at the B15 site. As of the end of the end of the third quarter of 2017, a construction start date for the B15 site had not been established by the Developer.
Note that a design for the building, aka 664 Pacific, was unveiled in December 2015, actually before the completion of the site selection process. However, the 100% market-rate configuration is now unlikely, given the loss of a blanket provision for the 421-a tax break across the project.

The two-year timeline is new or, perhaps, a reversion to previous plans. As I reported in June 2016, a court file revealed that a representative of developer Greenland Forest City Partners said excavation and construction at the site would take four years, including 12 months for excavation and 36 months for construction. But maybe that was excessively cautious.

Even with a two-year construction timeline, unless 664 Pacific starts by this summer, the school wouldn’t open until the 2021-22 school year.